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Showing posts from March, 2018

Structures, Subjectivity, and Virtual Reality

In an earlier posting I discussed the idea of the ‘social mind’ and the way in which such a collective consciousness’ must be understood as dispersed to and contained in the minds of the individual members of a society. This provides us with a way of understanding social structures, seen by Durkheim as external and constraining factors in social life. In my work on social structure I showed that the institutions and relations that comprise a social structure must be seen as ‘embodied structures’, but I did not properly specify how such individual phenomena relate to collective structures.
In this posting I want to try to show that the structures of everyday life—Goffman’s ‘interaction order’—and the ‘macro’ structures of specialised economic and political activities can be understood as rooted in individual subjectivity yet act as real forces in shaping individual activity.

The world of everyday life—the backdrop to all our activity—comprises the myriad locales and persons that are typi…

Scotland and Scottish society

Sociologists of a certain age will recall the courses on ‘The Social Structure of Modern Britain’ that many of us followed as students or taught as lecturers. Most such courses have now disappeared. However, there are distinct advantages in pursuing a course that is focused on the key structures constituting a particular national society- and, of course, its global context.

 Perhaps such courses are now taught mainly in those places where national identity has become a critical political issue. Scotland is a society in which these issues of national identity have always been strong and where they have acquired a particular salience in recent years. Devolution, the independence referendum, and Brexit have all ensured that the autonomy of Scotland and Scottish institutions have been important matters of political debate. It is not surprising, therefore, that Scottish society has been an important focus for teaching within Sociology Departments in Scotland.  David McCrone has produced a ma…

Social Consciousness and Social Mind

In his Division of Labour in Society, Durkheim introduced the idea of ‘social consciousness’, which he developed through his narrower idea of the ‘collective consciousness’ as the moral binding force in social life. The more general idea of social consciousness, however, has much wider relevance to the ways in which actions give rise to social structures with real, sui generis, properties capable of constraining individual thoughts, feelings, and actions. This approach to ‘social facts’, however, was subsequently developed without any specification of the ontology of social facts: ‘social structures’ were seen simply as unexplicated frameworks for social action. Other than the work of writers such as Maurice Halbwachs on ‘collective memory’, there was little recognition of the ‘mental’ character of social facts to which Durkheim had alluded in his concept of the social consciousness. These issues were almost forgotten in sociology until the work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann in …

Narratives of Nothing

It is often remarked that you can have a sociology of anything. It is not so often said that you can have a sociology of nothing, but this is exactly what Susie Scott of Sussex University is trying to develop. We are familiar with ideas about non-places since the work of Marc AugĂ© and Rob Shields, and George Ritzer has elaborated ideas of non-things and non-people in his book on The Globalization of Nothing, but Susie aims at a far more general approach to nothing at all.
 As part of her project on the Sociology of Nothing, extending her interactionist work on everyday life, she is collecting personal stories of non-doing, non-being, and non-having, exploring ideas and feelings about those things that are lost, missing, or have never happened. Details on the project can be found at

 Stories submitted to the website on Narratives of Nothing include:  a mother wanting space to ‘do nothing’ as a way of being herself; a daughter writing …

Reforming Corporate Governance

The Government is considering establishing a register of the beneficial owners of overseas companies, the so-called Persons with Significant Control (PSCs). The aim is the better understanding and regulation of corporate control. I have submitted some comments to the Call for Evidence drawing on my own research into corporate ownership and control. My comments concentrate on issues relevant to the collection and recording of shareholder information. This post comprises the various suggestions made in my submission.

The cut-off for defining a PSC.  1. There are great advantages in using the existing definition of PSC, at least in the first instance. This will allow evolving measures and data collection methods to be applied in the new context. Any change to definition should be undertaken for both matters after experience of the system and awareness of any problems have been gained.  2. The one area where I think that change is required is in the percentage cut-off used for identifying a …

Reforming the Lords

Much of my research has concerned status and the dominant classes in relation to political power. One focus has been on the role of the House of Lords in Parliament. This has changed considerably over time. The link between the House of Lords and an hereditary peerage has almost disappeared. Most members of the House today are Life Peers who are appointed by the main political parties or by an Appointments Commission as independent, crossbench members. The Lords today has to be viewed as a central part of the parliamentary system concerned with reflecting on, revising, and improving legislation. The important question is what further reforms are needed in order to enhance its role.

Any major reforms to principles of appointment and composition require parliamentary time for legislation, which is unlikely to be available very soon. The House has, however, undertaken some reforms itself under delegated powers of secondary legislation. In December 2016 a Committee was set up by the Lord S…

Relevance and Impact for Sociology

A recent book by David Walker (Exaggerated Claims? The ESRC, 50 Years On, London: Sage Publications, 2016) has set out criticisms of sociology for its lack of relevance and engagement with contemporary policy issues. In my review of the book in Sociology (Vol. 51, 2, 2016) I have criticised his argument and established a case for both the impact of sociology and the failure of policy makers to engage with it. Reprinted here is the text of that review.


David Walker has had a long career as a journalist, working on higher education and social affairs and as a leader writer on TheGuardian and TheIndependent. He has also been a staunch supporter of social research through his various roles with the Rowntree Foundation, the National centre for Social Research, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). In this book he draws on this wealth of experience for an unofficial history and critique of the ESRC and its funding of social research. He has…


Welcome to the Sociology Post.
This is the place where I will be posting notes, comments, and reports on sociological matters and issues of sociological relevance. It is where I hope to engage with all of those who come to my website or who have read my work.
The post was launched in April 2017 on my website. Software changes have meant a transfer to Blogger, but I will soon reestablish a link to the website. All the old posts will be re-posted here over the next few weeks.
Watch this space!